India’s new found love for luxury hatchbacks has paved way for the foray of a number of premium offerings from luxury manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo. Following this European armada, is BMW’s globally proven 1 Series aiming to dethrone the A-Class from the realm of luxury hatchbacks and from its launch it is clear that BMW has thought this through prior to its deployment.
On the right corner we have the reigning champion of luxury hatchbacks in India, weighing in at 1520kg, the A-Class. On the opposite corner, we have the challenger from Bavaria, weighing in at 1375kg, is the BMW 1 Series. While the A-Class is available in two trims; A180 CDi Style and A180 Sport Petrol, while the BMW is available in four; 116i Baseline, 118d Baseline, 118d Sport and 118d Sport plus.
As the model range from both the manufacturers is quite diverse, a comparison becomes quite illogical on a broad perspective. BMW’s petrol variant is a base model, while that of Mercedes-Benz is top of the line. Nonetheless, both are powered by a 1.6-litre engine rated at 124PS/200Nm in the Merc and 138PS/220Nm in the Beemer. Furthermore, the 1 Series gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the A-Class has to make do with one gear less in its auto gear box. The feature list on the A-Class is also more exhaustive as compared to the 1 Series, with the car getting automatic climate control, leather trim and a panoramic sunroof among many others that the 1 Series misses out on. After all, there is a price difference of exactly Rs 4 lakhs between the two, which has to be justified by the innumerate conveniences.
A more legitimate comparison is between the A180CDi Style and the 118d Baseline models solely because of its similar price tag of around Rs 23 lakh. But, apart from their similar price tags and their country of origin, there is not much that is similar between the two. While the BMW is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel mill that makes 145PS power and 320Nm torque, the A-Class, despite having a bigger 2.2-litre engine produces 110PS power and 250Nm torque. On the feature front, both models are a mixed bag, with the 1 Series missing out on Climate Control and leather seats, and the A-Class giving up rear parking sensors and rain sensing wipers.
But the most glaring difference between the two is that while the A-Class is a standard, transverse engine, front-wheel drive setup, the 1 Series is more of a thoroughbred with its conventional rear-wheel drive layout. In favour of the A-Class, the Mercedes hatchback gets a dual-clutch paddle shift transmission in the place of an automatic stick shift found on the BMW.
Aesthetically, though we do understand that the beauty is in the eyes of the viewer, there is no argument that the A-Class is a clear eye catcher, while the 1 Series has attracted mixed opinions from the onlookers. Besides, having a transverse set up has aided the A-Class to provide more cabin space as it does away with any transmission axles underneath. But on the other side, the BMW is longer while riding lower compared to the Merc while also featuring a larger boot.
There is no definitive winner in this battle, as both models peak at different fronts. The choice is simpler if you are looking for top spec petrol or diesel models, as there is a clear winner there. But anything between that is grey area and picking one instead of the other will be like picking one of your hands over the other; well not exactly.